Saturday, July 8, 2017

Anna Maria Island//Celebrating the sunsets

Our spring break trip in Anna Maria Island in March was full of beach time, ice cream, pool floats and the best seafood eaten at sunset. It was the sort of vacation that you plan and plan, trying to fit in the best beach + food. And it all came together!

We drove in from Ohio around 2 pm and stopped at the Star Fish Market for the BEST seafood ever on a quaint, packed dockside restaurant that served up old Florida fare.

Brandon got the clam strips and fries and I got the fried gulf shrimp with fries. The food. The seafood was fresh and tasted amazing. Be prepared to wait for awhile or come at off times since it's crowded. Also, they only take cash. Both times we went we spent around $50-$60 with drinks + entrees.

Then we drove to our hotel, the Bungalow Beach Resort. Brandon always jokes that I am a serial travel guide. I love to plan trips and this one involved looking for a hotel that fit the following criteria: 
  • On the beach 
  • Good for families 
  • Newer and cleaner with light and bright rooms 
  • Kitchen area with fridge for breakfast and lunch (we rarely used the stove) 
Bungalow Beach Resort 
We LOVED the Bungalow Beach Resort. The only thing that would have made it better is scoring two rooms in our suite, instead of one. The other suites had a pool or two rooms. But the porch on the beach that we had breakfast every morning was perfection. And they had outdoor water faucets for hosing off the sand. You can also grill dinner in their fire pit area. It was amazing! 

After talking with my sister we decided that a beachfront hotel was a better fit for our family than a house rental away from the beach. I would choose the same set up again--100 percent. I will most likely always try to book beachfront with small kids that have to grab snacks, use the potty, or head to the pool or take a nap. 

After a fun morning of playing in the beach and sand, the kids loved playing in the pool in the afternoon when our temperatures climbed to 90-plus to cool off. 

Some of our friends from Ohio met us at a fun Mexican restaurant and then took Sophie boating. She had the best time with her buddies!

The kids loved our mostly empty pool. The resort has a lot of older couples that book so it's very quiet. We seriously lucked out. No one was ever in the pool so it felt like it was our private pool! It was super clean and had a bathroom right beside it.

Bean Point was one of the highlights of our trip. The sand is smooth, white and beautiful. You can see 360 around the tip of the island. It's a little hard to find if you don't know where to look. There's free parking on the street to walk to or you can score a hard to get rental.

Beach Bungalow outside at sunrise

The Donut Experiment  was one of our favorite food stops! We made a rookie mistake of going at 10 am in the morning and waited ... 40 minutes (!) for our made-to-order donuts. The Donut Experiment has you fill out a sheet of paper for your donut order and then you pay and wait. The cake donuts were some of the best we have ever eaten! I loved the fruity pebbles sprinkles and the maple glaze.

We also hit up Poppo Taqueria's tacos. Maybe because it had a little hype, we thought it would be awesome, but it wasn't our favorite Mexican stop. The service was slow and the rice was dry. Our kids didn't even eat it. However, we had a fun time relaxing on the porch.

 Stormy morning eating on our beach porch.

 Ava + Sophie's seashell collection 

We loved AMOB on the Pier. They had so many fun areas to watch fish on the Intracoastal Waterway on the pier, great beer for the adults, and fast-casual dinners.

AMOB is a good spot late at night when you don't feel like cooking, but your kids won't make it through a fancy dinner. We played putt-putt at The Fish Hole (had a coupon from Beach Bungalow) before dinner and the kids absolutely loved it. It was super laid back and had a fun vibe.

 We took a 90-minute dolphin tour with Paradise Boat tours and lucked out with a very small boat. The boat seats 28 and we had maybe 11 people on the boat! The driver and tour guide were amazing and stopped whenever dolphins crested or swam by in pods. We got to see quite a few on the helm of the boat! You are able to bring water, beer, food or whatever you want. Since it was 10 am we just brought water. Reserve your boat reservation online for quicker boarding.

Paradise Boat Tours  Adults//$30

 We were exhausted after our dolphin tour. We had a quick lunch at the Star Fish.

 On our last night, we went to the SandBar. It's a waterfront restaurant with a sunset party that includes guessing on the exact time of sunset (hour, minute, sec) to win a free dessert. On our first night we made it here around 7:45 pm and couldn't grab a seat outside. So, on our last night we went around 5:30 pm and had no trouble getting a seat. We stayed until around 7:45 pm (sunset) and had the best meal. I ordered the Caesar salad with blackened salmon and it was delicious! The kids ordered and got to play in the sand while we waited for our orders.

 Key lime pie at the SandBar  -- so good!

Tips for Anna Maria Island, Florida 
A great place for families
  • Travel in to Anna Maria on a weekday as the Cortez bridge is very crowded on turnover days like Saturday, Sunday 
  • Pack groceries from home so you don't have to shop on Sunday
  • Schedule a pedicure or spa treatment ahead of coming. I couldn't get a pedicure at any shop. : ( 
  • There's so much good seafood. Skip cooking dinner and try the local eateries! 
  • Arrive early at the Donut Shop (8 am Sandbar 5). Both places fill up early. 
  • Book your rental or hotel early as spots fill very fast. 
Whew, if you made it through all of those photos, congratulations!

Goodbye Anna Maria! You treated our family so well. The kids said it was one of their favorite places to stay and loved the sand, beach and dolphins.

We can't wait to return and celebrate the sunsets again.

All opinions are my own. The Bungalow Beach Resort gave us a discounted rate.